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Recommendations for a more power balanced policy framework for strengthening civil society

As part of the Shift-the-Power Lab, a working group has developed recommendations for the successor of the current policy framework for strengthening civil society. This new version is expected to be implemented in 2026. The recommendations formulated by the working group aim to create a more conducive environment for strategic partners to develop balanced power relations. Representatives of seventeen organisations already provided feedback and contributed ideas. No part of the working group but still want to share your feedback? Please read the discussion paper and fill out the two questions in the form below!

Read the discussion paper

Share your feedback


22 May 2023

Unequal power relations

The working group emphasises its appreciation for the current Dutch Policy Framework for Strengthening Civil Society. Against the backdrop of a shrinking space for civil society in many countries, the relevance of this policy can hardly be overestimated. This policy enables Dutch CSOs and CSOs from the global South to join forces to fight for a just, inclusive and sustainable world. At the same time, there is increasing awareness within the Ministry and among the CSOs, that this joining forces is not as straightforward as it may seem. The decolonisation debate and the international Shift the Power movement has shown that – just as in many other sectors – the cooperation between CSOs from the global North and global South is affected by notions of colonial, racist thinking and unequal power relations. Power imbalances between CSOs in the North and the South are persistent. They inhibit the Southern partners in their development, and they limit the effectiveness of the policy itself.

Reflection on the current policy framework

Focusing on these two questions, the discussion paper is a critical reflection on the current policy framework:

  • What mechanisms are anchored in the policy that limits CSOs in the North and the South in their efforts to achieve more balanced power relations?
  • In which ways should the successor of this policy framework be different from creating a more enabling environment for CSOs, to achieve more balanced power relations?

The paper is based on recognising that system change is needed at various levels. The Dutch policy framework is only one of these levels; there is a lot that CSOs need to do themselves. In the Shift-the-Power Lab, other working groups focus on those other elements in the system that need to change.

Room for improvement

The working group found that in the Dutch policy for strengthening civil society, there is room for improvement in the following four areas:

  • Agenda and priority setting
  • Managing risks
  • Accountability
  • Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning

Parallel to this discussion paper, Partos will consult with member organisations, soliciting more (not necessarily power-related) inputs in developing a new policy framework.